Faced with the challenge of selecting just 10 breweries from a state that is home to more than 100, I considered a few possibilities before landing on what seems like the fairest way to go: attempt a snapshot of the diversity on offer.
So here’s a mix of the newest, the hottest, the most fascinating and the most eye-catching to visit, drawn mainly from Sydney, but with a bit of regional flavor too.
Could you choose another 10 as worthy of a place? Of course. And another 10 after that, which just reinforces the point that there’s never been a better time to be a beer lover in Australia.
In a landscape that features so many brewery openings each year, it’s not easy to break through, especially if you’re on the smaller side. However, Bracket Brewing in Alexandria is the kind of operation for which the phrase “punches above its weight” might have been created. Despite opening during the pandemic and brewing in a small brewery system, they have gained a following among beer geeks across the country, largely thanks to their mastery of hazy, hop-dominated IPAs, and are regular guests at the growing number of specialized festivals. .
Beer to try: Ask the bar team for the freshest of their IPAs.
Mountain Culture launched in Katoomba in a former Civic Video store. Photo: Maja Baska
Mountain Culture Beer Co.
Whichever 10 NSW breweries I chose, if Mountain Culture didn’t make the list it would be cause for riots. Launched in Katoomba in a former Civic Video store in 2019 by ex-Oskar Blues and Modus Operandi brewer DJ McCready and his wife Harriet, who wasted no time becoming a favorite of the local beer world. Most will sing the praises of their higher alcohol IPAs, but there is a vocal minority that loves their decoction lagers (made using traditional European methods that involve extra steps designed to add more character) and the growth has been so rapid that they commissioned a major production brewery in Emu Plains last year.
Beer to try: Be Kind Rewind – A nod to the former tenant of his original home.
One Drop Brewing Co.
When One Drop became Botany’s first new brewery in January 2019, it launched with an impeccable lineup of what one might call “regular” beers, including a lager and an XPA that soon impressed the awards judges. These beers are still part of the play, but you won’t find many people talking about them (even if they are delicious). That’s because One Drop has put itself at the forefront of the envelope pushers, the masters of “What if we did this?”, each month releasing multiple experimental beers at both ends of the ABV (alcohol by volume) scale and perfect to show off on Instagram.
Beer to try: One of their imperial bitters with an incredibly high fruit content.
Preparation and mixing of wild flowers
For a complete change of course, head to Wildflower. Walking into his rustic, barrel-lined warehouse in Marrickville is like stepping back not only in time, but also somewhere on a farm in Belgium. The subtly complex beers, blended after barrel aging and featuring a mixed home culture of brewer’s yeast with wild yeast and bacteria that feed in NSW, are absolutely delicious and are often used to celebrate other producers and ingredients. amazing.
Beer to try: Table Beer: A display of ABV below the humble glories of the house culture, along with certified organic grains and hops, that improves with time.
Slow Lane Brewing
Sticking with the traditions of the older world, Slow Lane has eschewed modern trends, or at least put their own spin on them. His Botany home is full of barrels with which brewer Alex Jarman painstakingly creates truly excellent beers in styles you’ll rarely find anywhere else in Australia: English stock ales, barrel-aged dark sours, wheat beers inspired by those of Centuries ago and soon. A good example of following your passions and reaping the rewards.
Beer to try: If Foundation comes back, take that; otherwise try the Belgian style tripe triple it’s a winner.
Matt King (right) with teammates Trent Evans (left) and Glenn Wignall at their Marrickville brewery, The Grifter Brewing Co. Photo: Anthony Johnson
The Grifter Brewing Company
This Marrickville operation isn’t particularly new, nor does it follow a particularly unique path like Wildflower or Slow Lane. But the brewers are the unassuming achievers of the inner west scene. Everything from the brand to the brewery location to the expertly perfected liquid in each can is done exceptionally well. And they’re lovely people, too, so if you’re embarking on a tour of the inner west, be sure to stop by.
Beer to try: Big Sur – A West Coast IPA as it should be.
The Bob Hawke Beer and Entertainment Center in Marrickville. Photo: Supplied
Hawke’s Brewing Company
I’ve included Hawke’s as much for the unique splendor of its Marrickville home as it is for its beer. The Bob Hawke Beer & Leisure Center is a remarkable (and deliberately bold) recreation of a period of Australian life, complete with Bob Hawke memorabilia in the pool room (the business was launched under the late former Prime Minister and raises money for Landcare Australia), Richie Benaud’s commentary tracks in the restrooms, and an in-house Chinese bistro offering, among other things, Prawn Toast and Fried Viennetta.
Beer to try: Given the man whose portrait the brewing company has, you would have to start with the beer.
Bucketty’s buzz is in Brookvale. Photo: Bucketty’s Brewing Co.
Northern Beaches has become a hotspot for craft breweries; 4 Pines might have been acquired by CUB, but there are plenty of independent deals out there. Bucketty’s captures the vibe of modern-day, taproom-based craft brewing and has gained a loyal local following despite opening just before first closing. Or maybe that’s why: They quickly turned the place into a colorful drive-thru and found ways to be a community hub even when the local community couldn’t get together.
Beer to try: If Pale Ale No2 is good enough for a medal at the world’s most prestigious beer awards, it’s good enough for us.
Dangerous Ales Brewery
Head south from Sydney and you’ll find a region packed with small breweries. The Wollongong to Ulladulla stretch offers all manner of delights: Seeker Brewing, run by independent musicians; the sustainability-minded Jervis Bay Brewing Co; the winery, cheese dairy and brewery located on a farm that is Cupitt’s Estate; and many more besides. But let’s go for Dangerous Ales, not only because their brand stands out even in today’s hectic market, but because it’s the only brewery in Australia founded by a globetrotting, big-wave bodyboarder: “Dangerous Damo” Martin.
Beer to try: Uncle Damo’s Oatmeal Stout
Seven Mile Brewing Company
If we’re going south, we’d better go north too. You can stop anywhere from Newcastle, Hunter and the Central Coast, to Port Macquarie and the New England region, and find a local brewery without trying too hard. Among the best is Seven Mile in Ballina, launched by the Wilson family in 2019. A son, Matt Wilson, runs the brewing and has won many fans for his beers.
Beer to try: west coast api
The Curly Lewis team (from left): Gareth Morton, Loren Morton, Scott Morgan, Adam Richards and Oli dos Remedios. Photo: James Evans
NEW KID IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD
Curly Lewis Brewing Co.
This is the newest brewery in the state (unless another has launched in the last two weeks) and the first in Bondi Beach. Given the proliferation of breweries in Greater Sydney, this area was something of an anomaly until the team at Curly Lewis opened the doors to their 20-tap venue this August. While it’s new and its tanks suitably gleaming, there’s an old boss overseeing the brewing: Scotty Morgan was the original brewer at the Rocks and has helped many NSW brewing operations.
Beer to try: clean cut lager
James Smith is the founder of cunning look, an online magazine that has been covering the Australian craft beer scene since 2010.